Mass incarceration is increased rates of imprisonment resulting from tougher penalties, especially for drug offenses. Arrests and mandatory minimum sentences have fueled this since the 1970s. During this period, African Americans have been locked up in numbers out of proportion with crime rates. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, “five times as many Whites are using drugs as African Americans, yet African Americans are sent to prison for drug offenses at 10 times the rate of Whites.” Sentences are also longer. In 2013, the U.S. Sentencing Commission reported that sentences of Black men were almost 20 percent longer than sentences of White men convicted of similar crimes. According to the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, the number of women incarcerated has increased 800 percent over the past three decades. Black and Hispanic women have been imprisoned at greater rates than other women. In 2015, some politicians and law enforcement officials began calling for reforms and releases.
[For more about racial disparities in incarceration read the NAACP Criminal Justice Fact Sheet.]« Back to Glossary Index